at 11:35 PM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

I'd prefer to hibernate through the holidays. In January, I'd emerge and find all the Christmas trees in my neighborhood lying on the sidewalk, denuded of tinsel, waiting to be recycled.

So, to get through the season, I shop for people I'll never meet. Years ago, when my daughter, Anna, was five, I wanted to teach her about giving. I decided we would "adopt" a family through a group that helps families in need. I picked a profile online. There was Tanya, single, 19, pregnant, on bedrest. Her father, Booker, 50-ish, laid off from his construction job. I downloaded their Christmas list. We took off for the nearest big box store.

It felt mechanical, one more errand to run. Inside the store, I grumpily steered our cart past a mountain of wrapping paper. We picked out onesies and diapers. A sweater and camera for Tanya. Anna stood in the men's department wearing the extra large work gloves Booker asked for, in case he got another job.

"These are for the grandpa," she clapped her gloved hands. I imagined how much Booker must want to work with the baby coming. I thought of my own dad, Anna's grandfather, who had recently died. A self-made businessman, he wasn't perfect. But he'd grown up poor, never forgot where he came from. He was always generous to others, grateful for everything he had.

And at that moment, the shopping trip became less of a lesson for Anna and more of a lesson in gratitude for me. The canned Christmas carols stopped grating on me, at least momentarily. My father was smiling down on us.


Six holiday seasons have passed. I wonder if Booker has found work, if Tanya's well, if her baby started kindergarten. We're almost done shopping for a new family, a bigger one since now our neighbors split the list. The other day, I saw one of them emerge from her car, lugging a pile of brand new winter coats for the family on this year's list. She waved, a huge smile on her face. Everyone wants to keep warm this time of year.

With a Perspective, I'm Alison Seevak.

Alison Seevak teaches writing to fourth and fifth graders in the East Bay.